In our Selected Exhortations category, we republish interesting stuff such as must-read articles and essays not originally written exclusively for the blawg, and which have come to our attention. Please feel free to email [email protected] if you would like to reproduce your writing, but first follow our Writer’s Guide here.

The following article by LoyarBurok Blawgmeister Minion Marcus van Geyzel was shockingly first published in The Star. Lord Bobo’s rage was quelled by the fact that LoyarBurok was mentioned in the article.

There are many intelligent and forward-thinking leaders but they need to be brave to engage on issues, even those that seem to be against them.

WHAT more is there to write or say about Bersih 3.0? Even while the people were still on the streets, and with tear gas still filling the air, many were already pointing fingers and apportioning blame.
There are no easy conclusions, either way.

I was at Bersih 3.0, and I have published a detailed account of my experience in, which I invite all of you to read. Let’s put things in perspective.

It cannot be denied that the turnout was amazing. It is difficult to estimate numbers in such a big crowd, spread over a wide area.

My walk on that day took me to Masjid Negara, Central Market, Petaling Street, Jalan Tun Perak, Masjid Jamek, Masjid India, and Dataran Merdeka – there were big crowds at all these locations.

What amazed me was not just the number of people; it was the type of people, and the mood. These were ordinary citizens.

The criticism from some quarters before the rally, calling it “Pakatan Bersih” or an “opposition rally” exposed their ignorance.

There were also some snide remarks that people who attended were not well-versed with the issues, and were therefore just part of a “herd” – this is intellectual arrogance.

Since when do people need to be experts in economics, politics or even the mechanics and laws regarding elections? Democracy is for everyone.

It was harmonious. It was fun. It was a carnival. It was a thing of beauty.

And yes, before 3pm it was peaceful.

I saw friends from all walks of life. We even shook hands with and cheered the police whenever they appeared.

Then came the “breaching of the barricades” at Dataran Merdeka, and the mood swiftly changed.

I will not go into the details and who-did-what finger-pointing that has been going on.

To me, to focus on that argument is to lose sight of the bigger picture. We must forget about making vapid declarations of who “won” or whose “fault” it was.

The fact is that the barrier was breached, and this was deemed by the police to be unlawful and justifying a response.

The ferocity of the police response is what upsets me. The Home Minister says the police acted with “restraint”. The Bar Council says the response was “disproportionate”.

I was there, and from what I experienced for myself, the police did not act with restraint. At my location, tear gas was released in front of us and behind us – obviously boxing us in rather than dispersing us.

The reports of violence against members of the media are also most disturbing.

It is a testament to the solidarity and sense of community on that day that I witnessed so many people helping each other – with salt, water, and also to help those who were stumbling or struggling with the rush of the crowd.

We must not allow truth to become a casualty. And we must not allow hypocrisy to go unnoticed.

Criticise the barrier breach, the excessive police reaction, the groups of rowdy and violent protesters, the police intimidation and attacks on the media personnel.

To be critical of some but not all of these things is hypocritical and disingenuous.

The fact is that most of the attendees were ordinary people who do not care about political shenanigans. Sure, there were some violent protesters, but extremists will always exist on all sides – democracy is a messy business.

People came for electoral reform. It is about having free and fair elections. It is about being able to be secure in the basic knowledge that, when we cast our votes, the process is fair, and that our votes are made to count. They came to make a statement.

Our Prime Minister must realise he is supposed to be a leader of all Malaysians, not just those who voted for him (or rather, his party).

In September 2010, I wrote that Malaysia is crying out for brave leaders who will step out of the party line once in a while. We need leaders who will place importance on truth and justice.
Our leaders must engage on issues, even those that seem to be against them.

There are many intelligent, rational, modern and forward-thinking leaders, but we need them to be brave enough to speak up on controversial topics, instead of just providing meaningless soundbites on non-contentious issues to boost visibility.

So, what’s next for electoral reform? Bersih 2.0 resulted in the PSC recommendations. Post-Bersih 3.0, the Government must recognise that there are flaws instead of being in denial – after all, no system is perfect.

If the Government is serious about reform, it must lend its political will into fixing obvious, solvable flaws.

Bersih 3.0 saw more regular Malaysians take to the streets. It is the stories of these people – not what the newspapers, online media or politicians spin – that will resonate across the country.

When parents, uncles, aunts, children, nephews, nieces, and colleagues share their stories, the stories and issues become real.

What became real at Bersih 3.0 was that Malaysians have started to come together again. We began to move away from individualism and the pursuit of our own personal goals, to walk together for something communal. We started to rediscover our relationship as brothers and sisters of one nation.

Thomas Jefferson once said: “When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.”

Bersih 3.0 showed that Malaysians are slowly losing that fear of the government – and rightly so. The Prime Minister himself said that “the era of government knows best is over”.

The Government now has to make the next move. The people have spoken, and the message that the Government must take from this is that there is perhaps not quite a raging anger, but definitely deep discontent.

Click here for more Bersih posts on LoyarBurok.

Marcus van Geyzel tweets at @vangeyzel. He believes that the only certain thing in life is that everything can be explained by the transperambulation of pseudo-cosmic antimatter.

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